Around 31 percent of Turkish population still smokes despite decade-long campaigns
But Murat Ağırtaş, the provincial health director of the Central Anatolian province of Kırıkkale, said Turkey dropped in the ranking of a list of heavy-smoker countries.
“Turkey was the 11th country with the highest smoking population in previous years. It dropped to 40th place in 2020,” he said.
In 1990s, some 30 percent of the population were smokers in the country, while this rate dropped to 20 percent a few years ago.
Another expert, Ufuk Yılmaz, from the western province of İzmir, stressed smoking is still a “very important public health problem.”
“The rate of people smoking across the globe is 2 percent, but here, in Turkey, the rate of population who are smokers is 31 percent,” he said.
“The number of female smokers increased. A recent survey showed that the percent of female smokers was 15.2 in 2008, while it was 19.2 in 2016.”
The government has taken various steps to halt cigarette use in recent years. Turkey introduced a nationwide indoor smoking ban in 2009 at restaurants, bars and similar venues and gradually extended its reach to other enclosed spaces over the years.
Since 2009, teams have carried out more than 22.8 million inspections.
Yasemin Açık, the head of an anti-tobacco association, SGSMD, said the country has a problem regarding “young smokers.”
“Some 5.3 percent of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 smoke, unfortunately, in Turkey,” said Açık, adding that “some 28 percent of this category once tried smoking and some 24 percent experienced hookah [shisha] once.”
According to the expert, these teenagers try once or start smoking out of curiosity.
Another expert pointed to the link between smoking and COVID-19 deaths across the country.
“Some 85 percent of the people who died from COVID-19 were smokers,” said Mustafa Aydın, the head of the Fight Against Smoking Association (TSDD).
According to Aydın, some 30 percent of the patients under treatment in hospital’s COVID-19 units were regular smokers.
Volkan Kara, from the Turkish Green Crescent, an official organization fighting all types of addictions, also stressed the fatal damages of smoking, saying, “Some 26,000 people died due to COVID-19 in Turkey. However, the annual number of deaths linked to smoking is 80,000.”
Tobacco use is an important risk factor for developing cancer, the disease that kills eight million people worldwide each year.
To mark the occasion, Green Crescent made a call to addicts to quit smoking with the slogan: “Coronavirus loves smokers” on its social media accounts.
Some 18,000 smokers have called Green Crescent’s phone lines to ask for help to quit smoking since the beginning of the pandemic, the organization highlighted in its message.